Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

St. Botolphs

St. Botolphs. Small Massachusetts town with a distinguished past that has been experiencing an economic, intellectual, and spiritual decline since the middle of the nineteenth century. The town is emblematic of the shift in emphasis from New England to other regions of the United States in postcolonial times. Cheever models St. Botolphs on the classic arrangement of many towns in areas around Boston, with a central square that is the focus of social and commercial life, and other characteristic geographic features like a hill rising above the square, a river running from the hills toward the coast, and farmlands stretching toward the mountains in the north.

Aside from the descriptive details which evoke the terrain, Cheever uses references to the way the scents of the location—particularly the aroma of various bodies and courses of water—contribute to the psychological atmosphere of the narrative, and to the moods of the characters. Captain Leander Wapshot is exhilarated by the “brine-smelling summer days” as he sails toward the bay beyond Boston harbor. The festival commemorating Independence Day is darkened by the dark, raw smell of mud. Mrs. Wapshot is touched by melancholy, epitomized by her taste for the smell of orange rinds and wood smoke.

Wapshot house

Wapshot house. St. Botolphs home of the Wapshot family, a large house beside the river on land that was part of a farm in earlier days. This house and other individual homes and shops have acquired a distinctive identity through a local oral tradition and are like landmarks in...

(The entire section is 659 words.)